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MUSKEGON, MI-The site of the former Muskegon Mall will be redeveloped at an overall cost of $11.6 million, city officials say. Much of the cost to revamp the Downtown mall will go to relaying a street system that was tiled and roofed over under a federal urban renewal project in the early 1970s.

But that re-establishment will also be joined with new electric, gas, phone and cable service upgrades. Aesthetically, project leaders also envision 50 new streetlights, snow-melting sidewalk, fountains and sculptures, new landscaping and an outdoor ice skating rink.

Local officials expect the new streets and utilities have to be in place before they see serious purchase offers for the newly subdivided area known for decades as the Central Business District. Muskegon city officials and the property owners will be working on designing the basic streets and utilities this winter, with construction expected to begin in the spring. All of the public improvements on the mall site are contingent on securing government funding.

To that end, the city is expected to furnish $1 million under the plan. It contributed $450,000 to buy parking areas after mall owner Rick Perlman was foreclosed on in fall 2002 by the Downtown Muskegon Development Corp., the current owners of the former mall site. The city also will contribute $150,000 toward design and engineering work, which will come from an Enterprise Community grant.

The project will also see $3.4 million in federal money funneled through the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s newly created “Grow Michigan” public works project, aimed at helping cities rejuvenate downtowns. Another $3 million is expected to come through the US Department of Transportation, with the Michigan Department of Transportation adding $1 million more.

Wendy Ohst, manager of the county’s department of employment and training and facilities management, says the county has also filed a notice of intent to use $3.35 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to help develop the site with new roads and utilities. “It would help solidify that project and really move it forward,” she says.

The downtown development group estimates that, ultimately, the 17 acres of developable land will generate construction spending totaling $60 million. To further encourage development, the city has also designated the mall property as a Renaissance Zone, exempting property owners from virtually all state and local property taxes. People who choose to reside in the zone–which includes residential development in the proposal–don’t have to pay property taxes, and are exempt from state and local income taxes, whether they own or rent.

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